Can I get into FT8?

Can I get into FT8?  Technically for sure, but as an intellectual engagement I’m stuck in a quandary.

It is not that I lack the gear or the experience to run another digital mode – I’ve tons of contacts on PSK31/PSK63, Hellschreiber, and most of that wave of modes including Throb.  Then I played with some Olivia/Contessa type modes.  I’ve only dabbled with the semi-automated modes which include FT8.

In the day I even completed the ARRL’s online classes for digital, and ever took first place in one obscure digital contest – most likely because I was the only one who read the rules realizing that the multipliers were too generous compared to pure raw numbers of QSOs.

A lot of my digital radio time was through necessity.  While my voice is not a “radio voice” it would travel through the house if I went on the air SSB once our young children were put to bed, the majority of the time I had available for radio was late after the bands shut down for SBB, and I didn’t have very good antennas available – so digital was my solution.  I even bought a “no-click keyboard” keep from disturbing the house when I was operating, as I’d learned our small children would grasp at the noise as an excuse from their evening routines and sleep.

But over time the kids got older – they became the evening/night noise makers keep us from our sleep!  The bands became marginally better.  And I invested in a tower and decent antennas.  Oh, and I figure out how to use the equipment & later software better so my voice worked as a “radio voice.”

And I found I preferred talking over typing.  Actually more accurately I found I could do a voice QSO at the same time as doing emails or other typing.

When I started working PSK it was hand-typing everything.  Avoided Macros and used the typing as a way to keep my keyboard skills up.  I even ran some PSK63 events hand typing, but started using Macros to run faster versions of PSK and because I wasn’t all that satisfied with my PSK QSOs.

It is hard to get your personality to come over typing.

I started running more Hellschreiber largely because I thought the mode was cool & retro, and different enough to be interesting.  Not the best mode to run though as unless there is a published event few hams monitor for a Hellschreiber CQ.

Staring into the increasingly automated modes didn’t last long for me.

While I was technically fascinated the QSO’s became more about Macro’s, computer clock timing, and then even character limited.  FT8 is of course just a flavor in the continuum.

While I have a Twitter account I never spend any time on Twitter, though I do let announcements of my radio postings “tweet” automatically.  Have to admit that part of the account is to “control” the user name that matches my call sign.  A good hacker or any other technical glitch could end that of course.

So back to FT8 – while I have had the software up and running, done a few QSOs and figured out how to get all the software I’d like to run playing well with each other, I didn’t get “the buzz.”

Letting the machine manage a series of FT8 contacts feeling like pushing the graph command back in Lotus 1-2-3 days – the “gee-wiz” fades to a “meh” after a few repetitions.

Wonder if I am alone on this or if I’m just missing something?

Thinking I will set everything up to run FT8 again and maybe set a quick goal of an FT8 WAS (Work All States) or take a stab at a  FT8 DXCC to see if I’ve stopped running FT8 too quickly and before the “bug sets in?”

Or I may find that already know the answer – that I need to do QSOs on modes where more personality is shared.



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2 thoughts on “Can I get into FT8?

  1. Brad says:

    My first experience with FT8 was very lack-luster and I didn’t really understand what it was really intended for and why it would end up being a great mode for me personally. I also thought it lacked “personality” and felt very anti-radio.

    Jump forward a couple of months and it’s currently almost all I operate due to similar reasons that got you into digital modes, the noise from me when others are asleep and the background noise from others in the house while I’m operating SSB. Another reason is also by current antenna setup. I have a very small yard for now so a 40m dipole up at around 25 feet is all I can manage. With this SSB has limited me very much whereas FT8 is allowing me to make contacts all over the world and in fact a 5300 mile contact last week to be my longest distance to-date.

    I’m enjoying it for now but will be on phone modes later once I can get a tower erected (or move) and I’m starting to play around with other digital modes as time permits but FT8 is so popular right now it’s hard to wait an hour for one PSK or RTTY contact when I can be on FT8 having a ton of fun!


    Brad, K4NHA

  2. Cliff Linton says:

    I’ve never been a ragchewer, so FT8 fits my mode of operating quite nicely. As a DX chaser, I find FT8 removes any language barriers that may impede the completion of an SSB contact. With a modest antenna (a 80-10m endfed long wire) and 100W or less of output, I can work the world, even at the bottom of the cycle. The great thing about amateur radio is that there are so many methods of operating available to us. Each of us can use the ones that suit us, whether it be FT8, CW, SSB, FM, AM, or some other mode. We can choose to chase DX or play in contests, or talk to friends. We can work repeaters, satellites, simplex, or do EME on VHF and higher frequencies. If we enjoy making contacts with FT8, that’s fine. If we don’t, that’s fine, too!

    Cliff VE6PLC

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